WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Needing yet another rally with a seesaw road game up for grabs, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch knew just who to look for.
He found him — and just in the nick of time.
Down 40-35 with 4:29 to play, Lynch connected with a streaking Martel Moore from eight yards out — their second touchdown on the afternoon — and the Huskies sent Army to its fifth straight home-opening defeat 41-40 on Saturday.
Northern Illinois (2-1, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) made its first visit to Michie Stadium in 20 years a happy one despite trailing 40-35 with just 8:55 to play.
“When the game’s on the line, we try to go to our playmakers,” said Lynch, who finished with 342 yards and four touchdowns on 18 of 27 passing. “Martel’s our playmaker out there. I just gave him a chance. He was in rhythm and made a nice catch.”
The senior Moore had 134 receiving and Lynch added 125 on the ground as Northern Illinois used a potent passing game to counter Army’s triple-option.
Larry Dixon had three scores on 136 yards rushing and Trent Steelman had two touchdowns on 116 yards rushing for the Black Knights (0-2), while Raymond Maples added a score on 159 yards. It was Army’s first game with three hundred-yard rushers since 1996.
“Our guys overcame a lot in that game to win,” said Huskies coach Dave Doeren, whose team notched its first victory in a road-opener in five years. “They found a way to get it done. I’m excited to be able to run and pass the ball, the balance we had.”
Northern Illinois had led 28-13 late in the first half.
Army got the ball back with 4:29 left in the game on its own 25, but the Huskies snuffed Trent Steelman’s keeper attempt on fourth-and-3 with 1:52 to go to ice the win.
Army led 34-28 in the fourth when Lynch connected with Moore for a 31-yard touchdown pass on third-and-10 to go ahead 35-34.
The Black Knights went back ahead 40-35 on Steelman’s 15-yard run — set up by a Mike Ugenyi fumble recovery to put the Black Knights deep in the red zone — before a missed conversion attempt with 8:55 left.
“This stadium is a place not many people come in and win,” Doeren said.
Army kept its opening drive alive on fourth-and-2 when Steelman lunged for a first down, setting up Terry Baggett’s 28-yard drive on the next play to reach the Northern Illinois 25.
Three plays later, Maples took a pitch left from Steelman, weaved through traffic and skipped into the end zone at the left hash, putting Army up 6-0 with his 22-yard run with 10:25 left in the first.
The Huskies didn’t waste any time responding.
On the first play of the ensuing drive from their own 30, Lynch found tight end Luke Eakes for a 38-yard completion down the right sideline, the first of several bombs from Lynch on the afternoon.
Later, facing third-and-goal, Lynch dropped back and found a streaking Tim Semisch in the back of the end zone. Semisch came down with a fancy one-handed catch and kept a foot in bounds for the 2-yard touchdown.
Lynch was 4 for 5 for 62 yards on the drive — a stark contrast to the Army triple-option game. Steelman completed one of just three passing attempts and was sacked twice.
On first down from Northern Illinois’ own 12, Lynch broke loose on a keeper, misdirecting the Army defense as he raced to the left side. Lynch slipped two tacklers near the 45 and was well on his way to an 88-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies were up 14-7 on the longest run by an Army opponent since 2006.
Early in the second quarter, Lynch hooked up with Moore on a 33-yard lob. Then, off a fancy reverse, Tommylee Lewis ran in unscathed from 21 yards out. The Huskies had marched 55 yards in just 52 seconds to go up 21-7 midway through the second quarter.
Army looked to sophomore fullback Dixon to answer. He shook loose for a 17-yard run to get to the 8, then pounded it in from the 3 two plays later. The Black Knights were within 21-13 with 4:16 left in the half.
It was a short reprieve.
Lynch promptly connected on a 69-yard pass to Lewis, who beat Justin Trimble and raced into the end zone untouched. The Huskies led 28-13 with 3:40 remaining in the half.
Army, though, answered back when Dixon, broke two tackles on his way to a 13-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the half to make it 28-19.
Army didn’t need long to get even closer, marching 68 yards to open the third quarter, capped by Steelman’s 25-yard touchdown run off a fake handoff to make it 28-26.
But the Huskies went back to the weapon that Army couldn’t stop: the long pass. Lynch dropped back and let loose, finding Perez Ashford for a 44-yard gain.
The drive was soon cut short on a controversial call.
The ball fully extended from his fingertips, Lynch appeared on replays to break the plane for a four-yard touchdown rush. But the original call of a fumble — with Army recovering and earning the touchback — stood upon review.
Army capitalized, scoring on its next drive when Dixon powered in and Steelman found Patrick Laird over the middle for a two-point conversion. That gave Army a 34-28 edge, its first lead since the opening drive of the game.
“I saw how many rushing yards they had on their Jumbotron,” Doeren said. “I went to the defense and said, ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard. No one’s going to remember what it says if we win.'”
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